Lawyers for the former leaders of a Muslim charity accused of financing terrorism have asked a judge to dismiss the case, accusing prosecutors of leaving nonevidentiary materials from the previous trial in the jury room during deliberations.
Defense attorneys for the five former leaders of Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development believe the materials — a mixture of government case overviews and unadmitted wiretaps and reports — created a rift among jurors that unfairly forced last fall’s mistrial after 19 days of deliberations, according to court papers.
Prosecutors say their staff inadvertently put exhibits and some unadmitted materials in the jury room. But the government argues those materials didn’t cause the mistrial and that such a mistake doesn’t warrant a mistrial. They said in a response motion to U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis that it was grounds for a retrial, which is scheduled for September.
A mistrial was declared in October after a chaotic scene in which jurors disputed the verdict in open court even though the forewoman said no one objected during final deliberations.
Last week, the defense asked Solis to hold a hearing “for the purpose of probing the prosecutors’ motives and obtaining other testimony relevant to the issues” in reference to the extra materials in the jury room.
During two months of testimony last year, jurors saw nearly all the materials in question. But U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish told them to consider the items only as aids and not as established fact.
Attorneys for both sides won’t comment, citing a gag order in the case. Experts said in Sunday’s editions of The Dallas Morning News that the defense request is a long shot.
The judge “would have to find deliberate and intentional misconduct by government lawyers,” said Dallas lawyer Tom Melsheimer, a former federal prosecutor.
Holy Land defendants are accused of funneling millions to the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which has carried out suicide bombings in Israel. The U.S. government designated Hamas a terrorist group in 1995, making financial transactions with it illegal.
Lawyers for Holy Land said the Texas-based group was a legitimate charity that helped Muslim children and families left homeless or poor by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.